Football: The Power of the Players’ Agent
Something that has always fascinated me is how some players, who have not performed for years always manage to get themselves signed over and over by clubs all over the world. Well it is apparently for the average player (not talking about the Rooney’s, Messi, Sneijders of this world) crucial to have a well known agent. Whatever your talent might be, the talent of your agent determines your future. A bold statement indeed, but I am prepared to defend it.
Ever since the Bosman Ruling the players have gotten more and more bargaining power, given the fact that commercial capitalization of Football has increased as well (read my previous post Football: Money destroys it) the influence of the players’ agent negotiating with often more then one club trying to get the best deal for its client has increased even more. Sometimes players’ agents even take a “share” in a player, which nowadays in modern Brazilian Football seems to be “Business As Usual”.
So if we recap in the 60’s players had not much, if nothing to say about anything, nowadays clubs really don’t have that much to say about the future of a player in their current squad or a future signing.
Steven Gerrard a couple seasons ago was considering a move to Chelsea because he could win more prices, eventually he retracted his statement, fact of the matter was that Liverpool FC & Chelsea FC could not reach an agreement over the transfer fee. Personal terms had been agreed by the Player’s Agent
Last season Man Utd’s Wayne Rooney wanted out of Old Trafford stating a lack of ambition. Fans reacted furiously and outraged at their star, who didn’t have best of World Cups. Luckily both parties shook hands after a new contract was signed increasing Mr. Rooney annual base income to even more stratospheric proportion. Good job Mr. Agent, however first their was a court case between Wayne and a former Agent about some money to be settled
An interesting example or probably the best example is French striker Nicolas Anelka who was signed by Arsene Wenger from Paris St Germain at the age of 17 for a mere $750K; 10 seasons later, 7 employers further down the line, transfer fees paid reaching the excess of $100ML. Cristiano Ronaldo set Real Madrid back about the same.
Another good example of Agent’s power is Guus Hiddink’s reign at PSV Eindhoven of the Netherlands (2002-2006). Guus Hiddink managed to keep Mark van Bommel (agent Rob Jansen), resigned Philip Cocu from Barcelona (agent Rob Jansen) and signed two Brazilians: current Spurs Goalkeeper Gomes and current Chelsea FC Centre back Alex. Lesser known signings were American Damarcus Beasley (Ex Glasgow Rangers), English Alan Ball (former Everton), Swiss International Player Jonathan Vogel and Peru International Jefferson Farfan (currently at German side Schalke ’04)
With the above he reached the Semi Finals of the Champions League before AC Milan proved to cunning with an injury time shocker.
In the mean time all was not good in Eindhoven, Hiddink supported by technical director Stan Valckx, wanted to continue the direction PSV was heading into. However chairman Frits Schuitema (former CEO Philips) was worried about the financial risks and investment demanded, he also notice all players came through one, unlicensed, agent, Serbian Vlado Lemic. His influence over the club was massive; he was a the training ground all hours of the day, trying to influence the clubs transfer policy (hence making money).
2008: PSV did however not except it and appointed Jan Reker as GM who in turn fired Stan Valckx. Lemic threatened by this had his client Mr Gomes blacken Mr Reker’s reputation in a leaked interview. Not long afterwards the immensely popular Gomes was sold to Spurs, Mr Lemic banned for life from the PSV Eindhoven premises. This however did not stop him from doing business. At Heerenveen a Serbian super talent was emerging: Micky Sulejmani, dazzling dribbles, beautiful goals, power, speed, the kid had everything and was happy at the Northern Dutch club, known for its reputation of developing players (John Dahl Tommasson, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar are the most famous examples) until Mr. Lemic came in and engineered a massive $20ML move to AJAX Amsterdam where newly appointed manager Marco van Basten was a big fan of the young Serbian.
Furthermore it is said that the transfer of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar from AJAX Amsterdam to Real Madrid (fee between $22ML-$25ML) that the transfer never had taken place if Mr Lemic was not paid $1ML in cash by AJAX. Mr Lemic being a close personal friend of then Real Madrid Technical Director Pedrag Mijatovic, would smoothing the matters. Ofcourse this has never been proven, but the rumours have not disappeared. Interestingly enough when PSV barred mr Lemic players like Alex, Gomes, Alcides ect left PSV within months…
But one of my favourite agents is Mr. Mino Raiola! The man who brought Dennis Bergkamp to Inter Milan for millions of Dollars, threw in Wim Jonk as pocketchange, masterminded the transfer of Mark van Bommel to AC Milan, managed to get Inter Milan Samual Eto’o for free, signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Barcelona, to have him once year later sign for AC Milan. On top of that he had Mario Ballotelli sign from Inter to Man City and made Robinho leave for AC Milan. Talk about a Spin Doctor. His clients (players) love him, clubs however I doubt it. Oh by the way he managed to get Martin Jol into Fulham F.C. for free. 12 months ago Fulham were not willing to pay AJAX the compensation of $ 5ML to obtain his services.. once Martin Jol got the sack, it was only waiting for Mark Hughes to leave Fulham FC and Mr. Jol could be approached for free.
I have forgotten to mention Kai Joorabchian (Media Sports Investments) as he got global exposure by having Carlos Tevez and Mascherano signed for West Ham in an illegal move. Interesting to know the names of Russian Oligarchs Roman Abramovic (Chelsea owner) and Boris Berezovski are rumoured to have majority stakes in the group, but that doesnt make Mr. Joorabchian an agent, but an investor
So from all the above the conclusion is: Players, Clubs, Managers without the Vlado’s and Mino’s nothing gets done. So who are the real power in Football